Field Exposure and Effects-Air Emissions-PAHs, Oil Sands Region

Avian Health and Contaminants

Data on tree swallow clutch size and nestling weight, wing length, organ size, and measures of thyroid function were collected from study sites near active mine pits, tailings ponds and processing plants on oil sands leases in Alberta, and at relatively undisturbed reference sites south of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Analysis of the birds’ reproductive performance has revealed that neither hatching success nor fledging success differed between industrial and reference sites.

PAHs, alkylated PAHs, and dibenzothiophenes were measured in tree swallow nestling tissues and fecal samples. Tree swallow nestlings on the industrial sites had higher or comparable PAH concentrations in both their muscle and fecal samples, compared to tree swallow nestlings on the reference sites.

Ambient air quality samples collected from these same sites revealed concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated PAHs, and dibenzothiophenes. Data show concentrations at the industrial sites were equal to or higher than those measured at the reference sites.

Additionally, PAHs, alkylated PAHs, and dibenzothiophenes were measured in water samples collected from wetlands adjacent to the tree swallow study sites. Data show concentrations at the industrial sites were equal to or greater than concentrations from reference sites but did not exceed Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) water quality guidelines for the protection of freshwater aquatic life.



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